One of my challenges is sticking with a diet and exercise plan. So many other things start getting in the way — especially during the summer. I just went to the pool for the first time since my son got out of school, and it felt great. But I realize that getting away from my diet and exercise plan has resulted in a setback for my health goals this year. However, the fact that I had made diet and exercise a part of a concerted effort to create a healthier lifestyle, it is only a very small setback, and I feel confident about getting back on track.
Creating a Diet and Exercise Plan that Lasts
One of the things that has worked for me is working toward creating a lifestyle that is healthier overall. I’ve done the thing where you exercise like mad every day for a month, while denying yourself your favorite treats. It’s a fast way to lose 10 pounds (or more), but few of us can keep it up. This is because you are most likely telling yourself that it’s only for a few weeks, and then you’ll go back to your old ways. At least that’s how it works for me. Creating a healthier lifestyle, though, can result in lasting changes that become habits.
Here are some ways you can create lifestyle changes:
- Set small benchmarks: Start small. I find it overwhelming to set a big goal. Instead, smaller benchmarks, so I can see my progress, offer more motivation for me. Start with something small, like doing 10 more minutes of exercise each day for a week, and then adding 10 more minutes the next week until you are up to your desired workout time.
- Make your goals achievable: I am not going to go to the gym on the weekend. It’s just not going to happen. I’m doing family things most weekends. So my goal is to go to the gym three or four days a week, and then working in some activity on the other days. I know I can make it to the gym for swimming or strength training three or four days a week. It also works for food. I know I’m not giving up chocolate, but instead of eating a whole candy bar worth, I can reduce it to one square of dark chocolate a day.
- Change gradually: Trying to make sudden changes can be difficult. This is why it is important to change gradually. When I wanted to cut my junk food intake, I started by replacing one of my several sweet tooth snacks a day with grapes or some other sweet fruit. Gradually, I added carrots, red peppers, and sugar snap peas to the rotation. I still like to have some sort of candy (usually chocolate), but I eat much less of it now, automatically, saving it for a treat rather than snacking on it all day.
- Mix it up a bit: You don’t always have to do the same thing. Indeed, you can increase the effectiveness of your workouts if you mix it up a bit. I do strength training, swimming, yoga and kickboxing. Sometimes I add in a belly dancing video series I found online. I also like to change up my diet a little bit, having rice sometimes instead of a potato, or eating red peppers instead of beans. Look for healthy recipes, and try new foods so that your menu doesn’t get old.
Even though I lost some ground this summer, the habits I had been developing since the beginning of the year helped me avoid the sort of catastrophe that normally marks summer time for me. Even though I didn’t make it to the gym much, I still made an effort to be active, riding bikes and playing ball with my son, as well as making it a point to do some serious swimming the couple of times my family went to the lake. And I also kept with some of fruit and veggie habits, enjoying berries and other produce from our garden (which we are seeing more of now that summer is coming to an end) instead of candy.
If you are serious about keeping off weight, it’s time to stop thinking of the latest diet or exercise fad, and start making small changes that lead to healthier lifestyle habits.